If you are no longer able to work because of a debilitating illness, injury, or medical condition, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Roughly 6.4% of the over 4 million Tennessee residents receive benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSD”), a tax-funded program providing monetary assistance in the form of monthly income to those who are disabled and unable to work for at least one year. However, applying for SSD is complicated, and navigating the process to obtain benefits requires substantial knowledge of disability laws, deadlines, and filing protocols.
At the Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we are committed to providing the assistance clients need throughout the SSD process. Whether you are filing an initial application or need to appeal a denial, our Tennessee Social Security Disability attorney and staff are ready to help in seeking a favorable determination. For a free consultation, please call 276-623-0808 to get started. We handle cases in Morristown and the surrounding communities, including, but not limited to, Wolf Acres, Lowland, Woodcrest Hills, Russellville, Talbot, Whitesburg, White Pine, and Wilderness Shores.
What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD), and How Do I Qualify for Benefits?
SSD is a program that offers monthly Social Security Disability payments to individuals under age 65 who have qualifying disabilities and sufficient work credits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines benefit eligibility by looking at the years an applicant worked and their total yearly wages or self-employment income, which are measured using a credit system.
The amount of earnings needed to earn work credits changes from year to year. In 2020, for example, one credit can be earned for each $1,410 in income, up to a maximum of four credits. The number of work credits needed to qualify for disability benefits depends on the age when a person becomes disabled. Generally, 40 credits are required, 20 of which must be obtained in the ten years preceding the date of the disability. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.
Calculating SSD eligibility can be complicated, especially if you are young and do not have a long work history. As a Morristown social security lawyer, Mark Hurt can calculate your work credits, determine your potential benefit eligibility, and explain your options.
Does My Medical Condition Qualify as a Disability?
The SSA’s definition of disability is different than other government programs. To qualify for SSD, an applicant must be totally disabled, meaning that benefits are not payable for partial or short-term disability.
The SSA considers an individual disabled if:
- They are unable to perform work that they did previously;
- The SSA decides that they cannot perform other types of work; and
- The disability lasts or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
In assessing whether a person is disabled, the SSA utilizes the following five-step process:
- Step 1 – Are you working? Applicants earning more than $1,260 per month generally cannot be considered disabled. However, for those individuals who are unable to work, the application will be sent to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) offices that will make a determination regarding the medical condition. In making this decision, DDS uses Steps 2 through 5.
- Step 2 – Is your condition Severe? An impairment must significantly limit the ability to engage in basic work (such as standing, lifting, walking, sitting, and remembering) for at least twelve months.
- Step 3 – Is your condition found in the list of SSA disabling conditions? The SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that are considered so severe that they prevent a person from engaging in substantial gainful activity. Impairments on the list are considered disabilities. However, if a condition is not listed, the SSA must make an individual determination as to whether the medical condition is as severe as a disability on the list. If a precise determination cannot be made, steps 4 and 5 must be evaluated.
- Step 4 – Can you perform the work you did previously? If an individual can perform any of their past work, they will not have a qualifying disability.
- Step 5 – Can you do any other type of work? If previous work cannot be completed, the SSA will evaluate whether other work can be accomplished despite an impairment. If other work can be performed, benefits will likely be denied.
Evaluating whether a condition constitutes a disability under SSA rules can be difficult; as a Tennessee Social Security Disability law firm, we can assess your condition to determine whether your impairment satisfies the SSA disability definition.
Where Can I Apply for Disability Benefits in Tennessee?
You can apply for SSD benefits in three different ways:
- Online. SSD applicants can apply online at https://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/.
- In-Person. Applications can be submitted in-person at a local Social Security Office. To find a Tennessee field office, visit https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp.
- By Phone. Benefits can also be applied for by telephone at 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can contact the SSA at TTY 1-800-325-0778.
While it is possible to self-file for disability payments, it is not advisable, as the application process is cumbersome, and even minor mistakes or omissions can result in benefits being delayed or denied. Importantly, if an application is denied, even for a minor error, it’s not possible to simply correct the error and get a claim approved. Instead, an appeal must be made, which often can take several months. When you hire our firm, we can evaluate your case, gather medical evidence, and apply on your behalf, helping to lessen your burden and the chances of unexpected delays.
Will I Qualify for SSD Benefits in Tennessee?
Most initial Social Security Disability applications are denied; however, the rate of approval varies from state to state. There are generally three steps in the SSD application process: the initial application, reconsideration, and an appeal hearing. The following are the Tennessee disability claim approvals (at each stage) as compared to the national rates:
- Initial Application:
- Tennessee 24%
- National 32%
- Tennessee 7%
- National 11%
- Appeal Hearing:
- Tennessee 9%
- National 58%
The SSA has stringent guidelines that require examiners to reject an application unless all requirements are met. Despite having a qualifying disability, many SSD applicants are denied benefits because of critical mistakes in not complying with application requirements or failing to submit adequate medical documentation. However, with the assistance of an experienced Social Security disability attorney, many of these minor errors are avoidable.
When an individual is represented by an attorney, the odds of receiving an approval increase substantially, and the length of time needed to secure benefits generally decreases significantly. Consequently, the best option for most claimants will be to hire an attorney as soon as possible, especially if benefits are denied, and an appeal is needed. As an experienced SSD attorney, Mark Hurt can assist in preparing an initial application or in filing an appeal (if necessary) to secure timely benefit payments potentially.
How Long Does the SSD Application Process Take?
The initial application process generally takes three to five months to complete; however, it can extend additional months, or even years, if benefits are denied. Usually, there are four levels of appeal:
- Hearing by an administrative law judge;
- Review by the Appeals Council; and
- Federal Court review.
Each appeal level is lengthy. For example, in Tennessee, the average wait time for an administrative hearing is 11 months, and it usually takes an additional 392 days for administrative law judges to render a decision. Considering the long wait times at each stage, it is in an applicant’s best interest to secure a favorable determination quickly. By hiring a Tennessee Social Security Disability attorney, most individuals can receive approval through a reconsideration or administrative hearing, eliminating the need for further review.
If you were denied benefits, we can compile medical documentation and evidence, prepare an appeal, and advocate on your behalf to potentially secure benefits quickly, without having to exhaust all appeal options.
How Much Does a SSD Lawyer Cost?
Federal law generally limits the fees charged by Social Security disability lawyers to 25% of the backpay amount, or $6,000, whichever is lower. Although, if multiple appeal hearings are needed, a lawyer is permitted to file a petition with the SSA to allow the fee to exceed the maximum.
At the Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we represent disabled clients on a contingency-fee basis, meaning that we do not receive a fee unless benefits are awarded. Additionally, we only charge a fee on back pay benefits, meaning that you keep 100% of future payments. If you hire our firm, the SSA will likely withhold 25% of your past-due benefits and pay the money directly to our firm. Consequently, you will avoid the hassle of arranging payments for our services.
At the Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, We Work Hard to Obtain Benefits for Clients
Hiring an attorney can significantly increase your chances of receiving disability benefits, but it is crucial to secure a lawyer who is well-versed in disability law.
For over thirty years, Mark Hurt has been successfully representing clients, and he has helped secure millions of dollars in benefits, settlements, and awards. He obtained his law degree (with honors) from Duke University, and has tried jury cases and argued appeals before state appellate courts, federal district and appellate courts, and before the United States Supreme Court.
At the Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we understand Social Security disability law, how to navigate the application process, and what it takes to secure benefits. Whether you are filing an initial application or need representation for an appeal from a denial, our experienced team can guide you through every step of the process. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation to learn about the benefits to which you may be entitled.
 Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, 2017, Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/di_asr/2017/di_asr17.pdf.
 Benefits Planner: Disability| How You Qualify, Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/qualify.html
 Benefits Planner: Disability | How to Qualify, Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/qualify.html#anchor3.
 Medical/Professional Relations, Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/listing-impairments.htm.
 Research, Statistics & Policy Analysis, Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/.
 The Appeals Process, Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10041.pdf.
 Once denied disability benefits, Tennesseans face long waits to appeal, Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/01/06/denied-disability-how-appeal-tennessee/2339794002/.
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This law firm is excellent to work with and I highly recommend them. Jessica was great to work with for me filing a disability claim through the Social Security Administration. She answered all my questions and concerns quickly and efficiently.